WHAT’S IN A NAME? Point University
Published 1:00 pm Saturday, February 25, 2023
It’s hard to believe that a university in West Point named so appropriately did not get its start in that city. When it was founded, Point University was called Atlanta Christian College, and it was located in a suburb of Atlanta over 75 miles away.
Judge T. O. Hathcock, who served in Fulton County from 1914 to 1942, built the campus on one part of a 300-acre farm in East Point, Georgia.
“At the time, East Point really wasn’t much of a city,” President Dean Collins said. “It was really more of a lot of farmland, and the college was on Judge Hathcock’s farm.”
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In 2018, the university made the decision to move its campus. The campus had once been a farm that had plenty of space. But as the metropolitan Atlanta grew around it, East Point, a highly residential area, was not easily accessible anymore. This decision catalyzed an avalanche of change for the school, one of which was the transformation of its name.
When Collins began looking for new locations for the school, he knew the college needed to be somewhere where students could thrive, where the college could build a relationship with the surrounding community, and most practically, where there were already buildings to hold the college. West Point was only one of three potential locations.
He initially anticipated moving to another area in metropolitan Atlanta.
“I think we all anticipated being somewhere in the metro Atlanta area, and we wouldn’t necessarily be changing our name,” Collins said.
Collins hired a consulting firm called DeMoss group to help restructure the branding and handle the public relations for the move. Using research, the firm brainstormed 17 possible names for the new school. The ideas came from geography to local figures. However, while CEO Mark DeMoss was on a flight for Liberty University, he had a spark of inspiration.
“He said, ‘I just kind of got hung up on the ‘Point’ … it had so much potential,’” Collins said.
So DeMoss tested it with the college-age groups. After all, it might be on their diplomas one day. He gathered up four trustworthy students and announced the new name and mascot to them. Luckily, they loved it.
Of course, it helped that the university would be moving from East Point to West Point — towns that were named for the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. They chose “university” rather than college this time around.
“At the time, we were much smaller, and it was aspirational to grow into a bigger university,” Collins said.
The Point University logo was also designed very intentionally. Though the college was doing away with the word “Christian,” Collins wanted to make sure that its Christian identity was still reflected in the name.
“We’re a Christian university, and we were changing our name, and we didn’t want to lose our Christian identity,” Collins said. “So that cross was very intentional.”
When you look at the Point University logo, you might notice a yellow triangle above the ‘n,’ which helps form a cross out of the negative space.
Before the name and new location were announced to the whole college, DeMoss told Collins that they would need the students to sell the new name. So Collins planned a secret trip.
“There were four students who learned the name before the faculty, staff or the greater public knew the name,” he said.
He took four trustworthy students and a videographer on a day trip to West Point. When they got to the town, Collins walked them around and told them the story. He revealed to the students where their new college would be and answered questions. Most of the day was spent in that way.
When everything was settled, the college held an assembly to unveil the new name and location to the whole campus at once. The auditorium heard a round of applause from the students.
“Several students actually started cheering and clapping who’d never heard this name, and it was great confirmation that we had picked the right name,” Collins said. “And then those four students jumped up, ran up to the stage, and they just owned it.”
As with anything that has been close to people’s hearts, there was an emotional attachment to the historic name and campus. However, over time more and more alumni have requested a new diploma with the Point University name.
“I’m convinced that the students’ enthusiasm over the name and the student-to-student connection made it stick with the students,” Collins said.
In July 20112, the college officially became Point University, and made the move to its current location in West Point. Today, you cannot drive through downtown West Point without seeing students walking around the city, integrated into the fabric of the community. Point University students perform at local churches and volunteer for community service all throughout the year.
“There are students walking around,” Collins said. “They’ve seen the growth of downtown — to go from a ghost town to lots of restaurants and shops and foot traffic … We are definitely a part of the revitalization of the community.”